Google employees discussed altering search results to counter Trump's travel ban

A group of Google employees discussed how to “leverage” their search function to oppose President Trump’s travel ban shortly after the ban was signed in January 2017. The email chain containing the idea came to light last night via Tucker Carlson. From the Wall Street Journal, which also got a look at the email chain:

One of the emails, from an employee of the Search Product Marketing division, explained that there was a “large brainstorm” going throughout the company’s marketing division over how to respond.

“Overall idea: Leverage search to highlight important organizations to donate to, current news, etc. to keep people abreast of how they can help as well as the resources available for immigrations [sic] or people traveling,” the email says.

The email included a compilation of specific ideas that individual company officials had already floated…

“Actively counter islamophobic, algorithmically biased results from search terms ‘Islam’, ‘Muslim’, ‘Iran’, etc.”

“Actively counter prejudiced, algorithmically biased search results from search terms ‘Mexico’, ‘Hispanic’, ‘Latino’, etc.”

Actively counter is short for ‘make sure people using our search box get the correct message.’ Welcome to 1984! And, by the way, we have always been at war with Eastasia.

Some employees thought this was a great idea, replying, “We’re absolutely in…Anything you need.” But others questioned the wisdom of this plan.

A public-affairs executive wrote: “Very much in favor of Google stepping up, but just have a few questions on this,” including “how partisan we want to be on this.”

“To the extent of my knowledge, we’d be breaching precedent if we only gave Highlights access to organizations that support a certain view of the world in a time of political conflict,” the public-affairs executive said. “Is that accurate? If so, would we be willing to open access to highlights to [organizations] that…actually support the ban?”

Carlson got a response from Google about the email chain which Fox News printed today:

“These emails were just a brainstorm of ideas, none of which were ever implemented. Google has never manipulated its search results or modified any of its products to promote a particular political ideology — not in the current campaign season, not during the 2016 election, and not in the aftermath of President Trump’s executive order on immigration. Our processes and policies would not have allowed for any manipulation of search results to promote political ideologies,” a Google spokesperson said.

When Google fired James Damore the company claimed it was because his memo included comments which violated company policy, not because the left-wing company objected to his discussion of outside ideas or his revealing how Google was pursuing its diversity goals.

Then, when Breitbart published a video of Google’s top employees breaking into tears over Trump’s election, the response from Google was that this was (group) personal sentiment and did not demonstrate bias in the company’s products. Here’s part of the company’s statement: “Nothing was said at that meeting, or at any other meeting, to suggest that political bias ever influences the way we build or operate our products. To the contrary, our products are built for everyone, and we design them with extraordinary care to be a trustworthy source of information for everyone, without regard to political viewpoint.”

Now we find out that a couple of months after that teary meeting about Trump, Google employees were brainstorming how to counter the travel ban. And now Google’s response is: Okay, so maybe some employees were talking about how to translate their partisan bias into search results but they were only talking.

So the question is this: Does anyone think Google would admit it if someone did take the next step and actually write their bias into the company’s products? I don’t see any reason to believe them given what we’ve seen so far. What you have is a bunch of openly progressive people who pinky swear they aren’t cheating. Not at all. They’re just brainstorming about cheating every once in a while.

You don’t have to be paranoid to see how their ongoing denials ring a bit hollow. Google employees, at least some of them, are clearly up for this and, given the messages coming from the top, it’s not hard to see why. Here’s the clip from Tucker Carlson last night.